Choosing the Best Chicken Coop Size for Your Flock
How Much Space Do Chickens Need?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Thinking about the best chicken coop size for your flock? This requires evaluating a few factors. Obviously, a large flock packed in a small coop makes no sense. Did you know that a small flock in a large coop can also be the wrong choice?
Factors Influencing Coop Size
One size coop does not fit all. The factors that influence the best chicken coop size include the breeds of chickens, the number of chickens in the flock, community or HOA guidelines, and the size of your property.
Starting with property size, also think about the accessibility of your backyard. Buying a ready-made coop is a great option but delivery might be a concern. If your property does not have access to the backyard because of other buildings or permanent fencing, it will take some modifications to deliver the coop.
Build it yourself coop kits are usually the small size. These are great in most backyard situations. For a small flock of three or four chickens, these tiny coops can be the perfect solution. Small coop kits are attractively designed, and easy to assemble. I recommend adding additional hardware cloth and latches to the kit. It is important to use the best chicken coop security features possible in your chicken coop plans.
What Breeds are Suited to a Small Coop?
Bantam breeds are smaller versions of larger chicken breeds. They lay eggs that are a little smaller but still delicious! These are often a perfect choice for a backyard flock. Up to six Bantams can exist comfortably in a small coop. Standard size chickens can use a small coop for roosting at night, but it does not give them much room to move around in during the day. In addition, cramped coop living can lead to pecking order issues and bullying. Small coops can only house two to three standard size hens.
Homeowners Associations, (HOA), and local ordinances may restrict the size of a backyard flock to a low number. Check with your local zoning board if you are thinking about raising chickens.
A Small Coop in A Large Run
Benefits to a small coop include it being easy to clean. The coop part is usually above the included run. This limits the amount of bending you must do when gathering eggs or cleaning the nesting and roosting area. A drawback is that there isn’t much extra room for food and water during bad weather. We put our small coops inside a 10×10 chain-link enclosure and covered the top. This gives the flock more room to move about during the day, when we are working, and protects them from aerial predators.
What is the Space Recommendation for the Best Chicken Coop Size?
How much space do chickens need? If your chickens can be out of the coop, either free-ranging or in a chicken run for most of the day, the coop size recommendation is two to four square feet of space per chicken. If your flock needs to confined regularly for longer periods of time, the recommendation is seven to eight square feet of space per bird.
When your chickens are cooped up for longer periods of time the space per chicken should be increased. Although I do not recommend keeping chickens inside the coop as a rule, occasionally there are extremes due to weather or predators that require more time cooped up. For this reason, I do not like to overcrowd my coops.
Is a Medium Chicken Coop Just Right?
Medium-sized coops often resemble a garden shed or other outbuilding on the property. This size coop is perfect for a flock of 10 to 12 chickens. A medium-sized coop allows you to add a chicken or two occasionally without overcrowding. There may not be much space inside for long term coop living, but there is space for food and water when it is necessary.
Cleaning a medium coop is harder than cleaning a small or large coop simply because you have less room to move around inside. Other than that, a medium coop can be the best chicken coop size for most chicken keepers.
When is a Large Coop the Best Coop Size?
When should you build or buy a large coop?
- You have over a dozen full-size chickens;
- Your flock consists of some large breed chickens, Brahmas, Jersey Giants, Cochins, and others;
- You are tired of building new structures to house your chicken buying tendencies;
- Plans for the future include acquiring more chickens or hatching more fertile eggs.
I love our largest coop. It is a redesigned garden shed and has plenty of room to move around. It is easier to clean because of this factor. The large coop is surrounded by a big fenced in run. The chickens have access to the coop during the day for egg-laying, hiding from predators, or sheltering from the weather. This was our original coop on the farm and has served us well. Unfortunately, as chickens have died off, the flock has shrunk in size.
Drawback to Small Flock in a Large Chicken Coop
There is now a flock of 11 where there once were 30. In the summer, this is not a concern. In the winter, less body heat being produced overnight and fewer chickens to huddle together on the roost may mean some birds get cold. Of course, we minimize drafts and bed the coop heavily to counter any heat loss. There will not be a problem this year as a dozen new pullets will be calling the large coop their home, soon.
Additionally, a large coop gives me flexibility on how to use the space. I have rearranged the coop many times. By adding a wire enclosure inside the coop, I was able to integrate pullets and let them safely meet the older hens. I have also housed our sturdy brooder in the coop, freeing up space in our feed and supply shed.
Make a Flexible Plan
As with everything, having a flexible plan before you start is the best scenario. Buy or build the space you will need for your flock. The best chicken coop size will comfortably house your chickens and provide enough space and protection for them in the event of bad weather or other circumstances. The best coop for chickens does not mean a large palace for a flock of three backyard chickens.
Originally published in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.